Friday, 11 May 2007

The benefits of sitting quietly

Today has so far been one of those days in which you can’t imagine that you will ever have a moment to think or the ability to do so if you had the time. My children had a school fun run today and desperately wanted me to be there and my youngest was running a high fever. I decided to go but with the proviso that I might have to leave.

I ended up sitting quietly in the tent while waiting for the races. Somehow a person sitting with a small child on their lap becomes part of the scenery, absolved from the requirement to make small talk. Freed of responsibility, I shamelessly eavesdropped.

Two ladies were discussing growing up in the area, pointing out the hills on which they lived. They talked about how they would get the cows in before school, trekking down the back paddock wearing high gumboots in their fear of snakes. They swapped tales of riding bikes several miles to school “great going there downhill, but no fun coming back.” After school, it would be back to rounding up the cows again for the evening milking. They talked about how tired they were all the time and how they would fall asleep over homework. How they never went to sports days, because they didn’t need the exercise.

Their stories illustrate the sheer physical effort of farming these dry hills. Even today, these women work hard to keep their livestock fed and watered. They truck water in daily for their cows and the whole family is out on weekends cutting grass beside the road. I look at my children and find it hard to imagine them living this hard physical life. But this is how people lived and I need to listen to these stories in order to write about the early settlers in this area.

By the way, my children came second last and last, respectively in their races.

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